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Aquatic food accounts for over 40% of global animal food products, and the potential contamination with toxins of algal origin – marine biotoxins – poses a health threat for consumers. The gold standards to assess toxins in aquatic food have traditionally been in vivo methods, i.e., the mouse as well as the rat bioassay. Besides ethical concerns, there is also a need for more reliable test methods because of low inter-species comparability, high intra-species variability, the high number of false positive and negative results as well as questionable extrapolation of quantitative risk to humans. For this reason, a transatlantic group of experts in the field of marine biotoxins was convened from academia and regulatory safety authorities to discuss future approaches to marine biotoxin testing. In this report they provide a background on the toxin classes, on their chemical characterization, the epidemiology, on risk assessment and management, as well as on their assumed mode of action. Most importantly, physiological functional assays such as in vitro bioassays and also analytical techniques, e.g., liquid chromatography coupled mass spectrometry (LC-MS), as substitutes for the rodent bioassay are reviewed. This forms the basis for recommendations on methodologies for hazard monitoring and risk assessment, establishment of causality of intoxications in human cases, a roadmap for research and development of human-relevant functional assays, as well as new approaches for a consumer directed safety concept.
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